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At the start of another season of college hoop-ee, you can count on the following things. With the dunk back, along about the first week some dude will soar so high he will stick in the scoreboard like a quivering dart. Shortly thereafter, Indiana will have to hire a designated seamstress to mend the jerseys Bobby Knight tears off his players. An NCAA investigator disguised as a keno runner will climb out of a Las Vegas air-conditioning duct. Bernard King's car will be arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a basketball player. And the Legal Aid Society, the ACLU or Baretta will file, issue and append 1,634 injunctions, restraining orders and subclauses. This is a game of the courts as well as by the courts and on the courts.
The main thing is that the dunk has been rehabilitated after doing a nine-year term for being an illegal weapon. Be showtime. Also, Richard Washington of UCLA and Adrian Dantley of Notre Dame are gone, having taken one of the last trains from Hardship Junction. Be missed. And while Gerald Ford is on his way out, his alma mater certainly won't need a presidential pardon. Michigan be ready. Finally, the NCAA has done it again. It held last year's tournament in Philadelphia for the Bicentennial and it installed this year's at the Omni in Atlanta for Jiminy Peanut.
Although Indiana is the defending champion, the Hoosiers lost four starters to the pro ranks, and it would have been five had not Kent Benson shrugged the money-changers off his broad back. Now someone will have to devise a way to get the opposition off the big redhead's shoulders as the pigeons of years past come home to roost.
Michigan is favored to win the national title after a year in which it was all-runner-up—in the NCAA, in the Big Ten, even in a holiday tournament in Las Vegas. But the Wolverines return with a cast that includes Rickey Green, who threw his name into the hardship hat, then pulled it out; Phil Hubbard, an Olympian; and rugged Steve Grote, who could use his nose as a diamond cutter.
Unlike years past, however, there is no overwhelming favorite. Any of 10 teams could win the title. In fact your name is Jeanne Dixon if you can pick the winners of more than three conference races, plus the number of teams that will be in the Metro Six—uh, Seven—next year.
The Southeastern Conference race seems particularly close. Auburn, Mississippi State and Georgia each have four starters returning, but they all figure to trail Tennessee and Alabama, who in turn should follow Kentucky.
Although Marquette will be making its 11th straight trip to postseason play, Nevada, Las Vegas is the class of the independents and a threat to be the first non-conference school to win the title since Texas Western did it in 1966, even though senior Jackie Robinson recently hurt his ankle and is out for the year. Vegas will benefit from the new dunk rule as much as anyone: every one of the Rebels can throw it down. Of course, with the NCAA currently investigating the university, the Deposition Five may have to win its national title in the polls instead of in the Omni.
Arkansas is favored in the Southwest Conference for the first time in 30 years; the Yankee Conference is no more; the Missouri Valley Conference loses its first name; and New Mexico will have a team. Last year the Lobos demanded that Coach Norm Ellenberger resign. When he didn't, they did, and Ellenberger recruited almost an entire new squad.
Philadelphia is known as the City of Brotherly Love, and Villanova agrees. It has three brothers on its team, Reggie, Keith and Larry Herron. One player who never seems to be anywhere long is Sam (the Migrant) Drummer, who was reported at or in the vicinity of Indiana, Gardner-Webb and Austin Peay before his freshman year. Now Drummer has transferred from Austin Peay to Georgia's DeKalb (South) Community College, where he is still studying road maps and figuring how to get to Georgia Tech.
For teams missing in action, consider Long Beach State, Seattle and Mississippi State. Ignored in most polls, each of the clubs could be a surprise. Seattle has 7' frosh Jawann Oldham, while Mississippi State might have the best new big man in the country in Ricky Brown.